Zielinski making up for lost time

AFTER ankle surgery over the off-season delayed her start to the 2023 Coates Talent League Girls competition, Sandringham Dragons key forward Mia Zielinski is not wasting any time upon her return.

In the two games leading up to the community break, Zielinski booted four goals from six scoring shots and looked like the genuine threat she has proven to be over the past two seasons.

Zielinski is a Haileybury College student who will juggle her time between the Dragons and her school, something she did last year as a bottom-ager. After hoping to be ready for Round 3 following that ankle surgery, she took until Round 5 – against Northern Knights – to play her first match.

In that game she slotted two goals from five touches and two marks, then went to another level against premiership favourites Eastern Ranges with 2.2 from nine touches and five marks.

“I’d say my strengths are my marking and kicking,” Zielinski said. “Definitely coming off injury, just getting my fitness back up where it needs to be (is the main improvement).”

The Carlton supporter looks up to Western Bulldogs sharpshooter Bonnie Toogood as a similar player she can mould her game around, not just as that strong marking forward, but also the desire to get up the ground and impact games as well.

Heading into the season, that was one of the talented forward’s goals.

“Last year I played a lot of full-forward due to the injury because I had it throughout the season,” Zielinski said. “This season I’m hoping to play a bit more higher up the ground and also assist the goals not just kick them.”

Zielinski is also thankful to have learnt plenty off AFL Women’s draftees, Bridie Hipwell and Keely Coyne who made the step up in Season 7 to run out for Hawthorn and Western Bulldogs respectively.

“I think last year was a great year for me being able to play with so many experienced girls like Bridie and Keely and learn so much off them,” Zielinski said. “Bridie really helped me play that half-forward (role), I played with her at local as well, I’ve played with her for a few years so she was really good to learn off.”

A change in personnel on the field with players moving on to higher levels is not the only change at the Dragons, with new coach Martha Cantwell coming on as part of the new investment of full-time coaches for each of the boys and girls programs in the Coates Talent League.

“Martha’s great,” Zielinski said. “I think all the girls just love the way she coaches and really understands her. She’s been great for me as well, she’s down at Metro as well which has helped me. She’s great, I love Martha.”

Though the Dragons are winless in the 2023 season so far, Sandringham has the best percentage of the four sides yet to taste victory.

For Zielinski – who will miss games when Haileybury is playing in the APS competition – it is just about piecing together a strong season and then assessing her draft nomination options after that.

“I just want to be consistent, get some games under the belt, injury free and hopefully kick a few as well,” she said. “I wouldn’t mind going interstate. I’ve got family in Sydney, I wouldn’t mind going anywhere, I’m not fussy.”

Sandringham Dragons next take on Brisbane Lions Academy at Brighton Homes Arena on Sunday, May 28 for Round 8 of the season. Zielinski will run out against Wesley College that day, and will return to the Dragons squad once the school action has finished for the term, which is Saturday, June 24 against Gippsland Power at Morwell.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments